Analyse and evaluate a website designed for children or young adults
The website for Mermaids.org offers support for children and young people up to 19yrs of age who suffer from gender identity issues. The site offers resources such as links to child and adolescent services, legal information, fact-sheets on sexual health and suicide prevention, and a forum where teens can connect and share stories. Besides providing valuable health and sexuality information, this site’s online forum can be seen to meet the unique information needs of gender variant young people through providing a safe environment to express themselves and reach out to others. Holt (2011, p.266) explains that online communities where these youth can freely and anonymously discuss their problems, concerns and issues without fear of reprisal from a frequently homophobic community, play a crucial role in identity formation. The importance of this is emphasised by Holt (2011, p. 269), who explains that positive identity development is strongly related to psychological adjustment, resulting in a stronger sense of self leading to improved outcomes later in life.
However, the use of internet filtering in some public libraries may render this site inaccessible due to some of the keywords in its content. Denying access to this site and others like it can be viewed as censorship, which is defined by Moody (2004, p.139) as those actions which restrict free access to information. In Farrelly’s (2011, p.28) view, censorship goes against the very core of librarianship which serves to protect the intellectual freedom of individuals through ensuring that they have access to information from a variety of sources and agencies to meet their needs. Educating young people in the art of selection, evaluation and authentication of information can be seen to be one alternative to filtering. The importance of teaching individuals to find quality information themselves is highlighted by Farrelly (2011, p.28) who points out that with the ubiquitous nature of smartphones, young people are able to access any subject regardless of whether they are in the library or not.
Exploring the issue of censorship in the library, I came to understand that it is a contentious issue with no one clear solution. The Library’s commitment to protect the intellectual freedom of their clients is commendable, yet can contradict the interests of parents who wish to make the library responsible for controlling and monitoring access to inappropriate material. However, I now understand that controlling access to information from the library can not only deny access to vital online communities and resources, it may ultimately be useless as young people are able, through their smartphones to find the information that they want wherever they are. I see this as an opportunity to advocate information literacy instruction within the library so that individuals can learn to locate, evaluate and authenticate quality information on their own. Familiarising myself with the relevant organisations that offer support to gender variant young people would not only fill gaps in my knowledge, it would allow me to guide them towards resources that could be searched and accessed outside of the library walls if need be.
Farrelly, M. G. (2011). Digital (Generation) Divide. Public Libraries, 50(2), 28-29. Retrieved from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=lih&AN=59805405&site=ehost-live
Holt, D. (2011). LGBTIQ teens–plugged in and unfiltered: How internet filtering impairs construction of online communities, identity formation, and access to health information. In Greenblatt, E. (Ed.). Serving LGBTIQ library and archives use: essays on outreach, service, collections and access. (pp. 266- 277). Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.
Moody, K. (2005). Covert censorship in libraries: a discussion paper. The Australian Library Journal, 54(2), 138-147. doi:10.1080/00049670.2005.10721741